Tag Archives: Synaesthesia

Year ends minus a friend

Before 2019 ends, I think it is worth putting on record that this was the year that I lost a good friend, an elderly lady I’d known for many years. Despite belonging to different generations and classes, and despite many ups and downs and misunderstandings and difficulties, we had time for each other, we appreciated each other’s finer qualities, we tolerated each other’s considerable flaws and we were genuinely hoping for all the best things for each other. I can’t say I’ve had many friendships like that, even though I’ve met many acquaintances who, at face value, have many more things in common with myself. Perhaps any kind of friendship is possible when people share a love of gardening and the natural world?

At my friend’s funeral I never expected to hear a description of a rare memory ability, even though my friend had plainly and clearly told me a year earlier that she was able to remember her own life in detail over long periods of time. Was it a memory of every day of her life, or was it flashbacks, or was it an ability to recall the events of any given date in her past? I’m unfortunately quite vague at recalling conversations, but I know at the time I thought my friend’s memory sounded like a case of “highly superior autobiographical memory” or HSAM, previously known as hyperthymestic syndrome. In reply I told my friend that it was the weirdest coincidence that I had read the first neuroscience/psychology journal paper describing this type of ability, and then realised that the person who was the case study was also a time-sequence synaesthete and this was probably an aspect of her memory superiority, and I then informed a leading synaesthesia researcher about this apparent link between synaesthesia and HSAM, and as a result I got a mention in a paper that she wrote and was published exploring this association. And I also have a freakishly good memory ability, mine an extreme memory for faces. After my friend and I both said our bit about our unusual memories, it felt like we were both sitting there, each thinking our friend must be some kind of show-off bullshitter. Me a super-recognizer and my friend a HSAM? What was the chance that such a pair would meet, let alone become friends? It seemed too weird to believe. The topic of conversation changed.

I should never have doubted my friend. At her funeral a eulogy by a third party confirmed my late friend’s claim to an uncanny memory of  life’s events. The first case of HSAM that was described by researchers complained that her memory of past events was too often a re-experiencing of painful experiences, while other (male) cases that came to light later didn’t experience their exceptional memory as a burden. I think my late friend, a widow, was at times vividly haunted by memories of the past. I’m convinced that she had the ability to recall conversations verbatim. Have you ever had an annoyed octogenerian correct your recollection of a past visit by repeating a conversation from weeks ago, word-for-word? I have. I’ll never be able to confirm it now, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if hyperphantasia is a psychological trait that we had in common. One day I’ll find the time to do a test for that.

I know I will never meet another person like my late friend. I also know that she will have been ticked-off that she left this world leaving this world’s problems unresolved. Regardless of her aging and often broken bones, chronic health issues and a sensitivity to life’s mundane disappointments, she was always ready to get up and go out again, and meet new vague, indecisive and forgetful people. I’ll always miss her, but she’s still very much a part of my life.

A beautiful mauve and lilac-coloured song

Some election-related lexical gustatory synaesthesia experiences

Laura Tingle -> Tingle = Fruit Tingles confectionary

Clive Palmer -> Clive = cloves, spices

Anthony Albanese -> Albanese = some kind of creamy pasta dish

Bill Shorten -> Shorten = shortbread biscuits

It’s a silly distraction, but also kind of fun.

Amazing British synaesthete super-perceiver gets to use her super-power to aid science and medicine!

Sorry, I don’t have time to write much about the very interesting and talented super-sniffer Joy Milne. You can read her story in the below linked reports and watch the fascinating BBC documentaries. I very much hope there will be exploration of her as a case study published in the science literature one day, because her special talent is clearly of vital importance.

Clearly I’m not the only syneasthete who’s synaesthesia is associated an extraordinary ability in the sensory/perception ability that is the synaesthesia trigger or inducer, as I described in the very first post in this blog.

My super-ability is as a super-recognizer, which has been validated many times over in very high or perfect scores in world-class face recognition tests, and the form of synaesthesia that I (very rarely) experience that is related to this is a form of synaesthesia that had never been described by science before I wrote about it here, way back in 2010. I named it The Strange Phenomenon, but in hindsight a more sensible name might have been a good idea. It involves a cluster of sensory memories of a woman that I barely knew, being triggered by viewing one particular man’s face from a very specific angle, in an experience that was very much like the feeling of spotting a family resemblance in two strangers’ faces, a type of face recognition, but also operated in exactly the same way as some of my many synaesthesia experiences. I believe I was the first person/researcher in the world to publish a theory with supporting evidence (my first-hand accounts of my experiences as a case study) asserting a link between synaesthesia and super-recognition, a hypothesis that I do not believe any “real” researcher in a university has bothered to explore using more conventional forms of research.




Scientific evidence confirms that Ikea furniture has no personality – a previously undescribed form of synaesthesia?

Some, possibly all, of my offspring, spanning most of the genders, report experiences that are consistent with synaesthesia, which suggests to me that my own synesthesia could be the result of a double-helping of synaesthesia genetics (homozygosity). Just the other day one of ours (female adolescent) unexpectedly explained that most of the large objects in our kitchen/living room, in which we all spend a lot of time, have genders and personalities, as is well-known in the ordinal-linguistic personification synaesthesia (personified numbers and letters) which we share, along with grapheme-colour synaesthesia. She told me that this goes back to her early childhood and has perhaps faded in time, but still operates.

Like my own OLP for numbers and letters, her Furniture Personification Synaesthesia is dominated by males. Maybe this could be related to the fact that we are both “tomboys”, with the usual orientations but personalities that reflect characteristics that are associated with maleness in our culture. Maybe it is simply a reflection of the dominance of males in society or the predominance of males as major fictional characters. Maybe it is the solidity of furniture objects that makes then seem (mostly) male. I only hope this doesn’t develop into that unfortunate mental phenomenon in which people (mostly women) “fall in love” with large buildings and structures, which they generally personify as male. That wouldn’t be fun. I don’t want a traffic bridge as a son-in-law.

Here’s the details of this type of personification syn that I’ve never before heard of:

TV = male

Refrigerator = female

Piano = male, nice (of course, what kind of piano is NOT nice?)

Oven = male, nice, cheeky

Airconditioner = male (everyone’s best mate on a hot summer’s day)

Brown drawers = male, cheeky

Rocking chair = male, nice

Rangehood = male

Ikea shelf = neither

Speakers = male

Merry Christmas readers, and please be kind to your loved ones, be they human, animal or otherwise.

Immune Hypothesis of Synaesthesia

The original place of publication (non-journal, non-academic, non-peer-reviewed) of the immune hypothesis of synesthesia or synaesthesia, by C. Wright, at this blog, in 2012, can be found at the link below.



Synaesthesia a topic for All in the Mind on Australian radio



Madame Lark returns to Perth for Awesome!

We recommend, for all ages.


According to the downloadable program Madame Lark will also be appearing at UWA


A total of five free shows between two different venues spanning the dates September 30th 2017 to October 5th 2017 inclusive are scheduled, but note that she has NO SHOW scheduled for the Wednesday.


My eardrums move?

If the human brain works to focus hearing and vision on the same stimuli, I’ve got to wonder why the idea of synaesthesia as a cross-modal way of experiencing the world seems so novel or abnormal to so many people, including researchers.

Woodward, Aylin (2017) Your eardrums move in sync with your eyes but we don’t know why. New Scientist. 21 July 2017.



Singer Lorde discusses her music-colour synaesthesia with Australian 60 Minutes

EXTRA MINUTES | How Synaesthesia helped Lorde write the hit song ‘Green Light’